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Hit Or Miss: A$AP Rocky, Starlito, Boosie Badazz, Alchemist, Kevin Gates, & More

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Welcome to Hit Or Miss, our new weekly column where we cover as many new rap tapes, albums, EPs, and projects from the week as we can. Some are good, others, not so much, but don’t be scared. Honesty is the best policy.

(Ed. Note: Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment’s Surf came out last night, but we didn’t want to review it in under 12 hours.)

Starlito – Introversion

Starlito’s music is his diary, full of anguished regret and secrets. Listening to Introversion, it’s clear there are things Lito has seen (or done) that he’ll never put on wax. Thus, his music is a careful dance of restraint, as he spills his guts without being able to ever fully reveal what he’s going through. That’s what makes his music truly tragic at times – as cathartic as he is, he can’t tell us everything. What he doesn’t say is just as important as what he does.

On Introversion, the Nashville rapper is racked with guilt and weighed down by his addictive habits; he sounds so gone off lean on the intro, newcomers might find it hard to make out his words. “TLC” is like his version of Scarface’s “Now I Feel Ya” as he thanks his grandmother for the wisdom she imparted to him. If there’s one song on the project that’ll make you bawl your eyes out, it’s that one. The project isn’t all gravitas, though – collaborations with trusted comrades like Kevin Gates and Don Trip bring the wordplay out of Lito.

Ever since I read this New Yorker piece on relatability in art, I’ve been wary about trying to find myself in the records I listen to. If you’re an introvert, Lito’s music sounds hand-tailored to your taste, but what makes him an impeccable artist is how he puts you in his shoes instead of reaching out for empathy. – Max Weinstein

Verdict: Hit

Best Songs: “Introversion,” “TLC,” “10,000 Hours”

Boosie Badazz –  Touchdown 2 Cause Hell

“Minor setback for a major comeback.” The first words Boosie utters on his sixth studio album are just the beginning of how far he’s come. Boosie Badazz has emerged as a new man on Touchdown 2 Cause Hell. The Louisiana native details his life-changing revelations and experiences in 19 tracks with production far more advanced than his previous work. His sound reflects his evolution from a rowdy thug with a shrill, quick-paced flow beats to a mature lyricist whose bars tell stories of struggle and anguish.

Boosie struck gold with beat makers like Kenoe, Boosie’s long-time producer Big Wayne, and Beat Billionaire, who helped construct the overall sound of the project. In songs like “Windows Of My Eyes” and the Jeezy and Akelee-assisted “Mercy On My Soul,” you can literally feel the emotional and mental bruising, which occurred mostly while Boosie served his 5-year bid at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. His most emotional track, “I’m Sorry,” is his request for forgiveness from his family and friends, especially his mother.

Although redemption and reflection are strong themes on the album, Boosie guarantees us that his skills are irrefutable on memorable tracks like “No Juice” and “Retaliation” produced by London On Da Track. He also had Chris Brown, Keyshia Cole, Young Thug, J. Cole, Rick Ross, Rich Homie Quan,T.I. and his partner-in-crime Webbie contribute to his refreshing body of work. – Tony Centeno

Verdict: Hit

Best Songs: “Mercy On My Soul,” “On My Level,” “Black Heaven”

A$AP Rocky – At.Long.Last.A$AP

The trippy, lean-induced sound that we’ve come to expect from A$AP Rocky has matured in various ways on his sophomore album At. Long. Last. A$AP. Rocky and his team of divergent producers were able to blend hip-hop, rock, and pop together, like in the Miguel and Rod Stewart-assisted “Everyday,” to give birth to intricate beats that complement his psychedelic raps. However, the sedated melodies in songs like “L$D,” “Excuse Me,” and “Fine Whine” live up to the trill/trap sound that Rocky loves to rap over.

With the help of producers like Danger Mouse, Joe Fox and his long-time producer Clams Casino, Rocky was able fuse several unique samples together to create songs like “Max B,” which samples Bob James’ timeless classic “Take Me To The Mardi Gras” and Max B’s “Baby I Wonder.” With Juicy J on the beat, Rocky blessed the album with an unheard verse from his idol and inspiration Pimp C on “Wavybone,” which features the other half of UGK Bun B.

The A$AP mob boss also excelled at mentally illustrating several outrageous stories. In the Danger Mouse-produced “Holy Ghost,” Rocky pens a story about his unique relationship with God and draws an extraordinary comparison between church and the club. “Cause church is the new club and wine is the new bub/And lies is the new drugs/My sister the next stripper, my brother the next victim/My usher the next tricker.” Meanwhile, in “Pharsyde,” Rocky eventually asks the Lord to keep his soul after discovering a dead body during his early days in Harlem.

The album couldn’t end without a dedication to Rakim Meyers’ best friend, Steven Rodriguez a.k.a A$AP Yams. Rocky enlisted Pretty Flako, Sr Yasiin Bey to spit a couple bars before Yams’ ghostly voice closed out the album by reminding the fans that the A$AP wave will never dissipate. “We gave y’all motherfuckers this wave. Grab y’all surfboards, cause y’all got your boogy boards right now.” – TC

Verdict: Hit

Best Songs: “Wavybone,” “Everyday,” “M’$”

Kevin Gates – Murder For Hire

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgG3cyRICic

I still have some skepticism about the on-record character that is Kevin Gates (or Luca Brasi?) but at this point, if you don’t think he’s a contender for the best rapper out right now, you aren’t listening closely enough.

Murder For Hire, his new 7-track mixtape, has some topical similarity to last year’s stellar Luca Brasi 2, leading me to believe they might be leftovers from that project, but the tracks hold their own weight as Gates continues to spin tales about crime, lust, and deceit. He’s a bully on beats, strangling them until you barely even remember they’re there, then breaking into song like he wasn’t just talking about getting shot.

Gates once told me he writes his best music while riding around in the car, and Murder For Hire is an intense, high-speed drive; think of the friend with a crazy glint in their eye and a lead foot. Buckle up – Gates is gonna take you for a ride. – MW

Verdict: Hit

Best Songs: “Intro,” “Rican Johnny,” “Mexico”

RJ – O.M.M.I.O. 2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BF-eplZ7vZo

Earlier this year, Pushaz Ink rapper RJ dropped a slamming collab tape, Rich Off Mackin, with Choice, a more nonchalant spitter who serves as the low end to RJ’s high-strung energy. RJ is the charismatic one, scaling tracks, sprinting across them with show-stopping footwork, and then stopping to sing a hook here and there. His new tape O.M.M.I.O. 2, though a bit too long for its own good, is an energetic, flowing listen, despite packing 20 tracks.

“Get Rich” was lifted off that tape with Choice, and rightly so, because the “oooooh ooh ooh” part of the hook makes the song catchy as fuck. RJ also completely subverts the shoot ‘em up attitude of so many upcoming rappers on that song – “Look, a gang of these new niggas wanna be Pac / That’s why a gang of these lil’ niggas gone get shot.” It’s refreshing (though also, in light of Chinx Drugz’s death, somewhat saddening) to see a young rapper who wants nothing to do with violence. By shedding all that macho bullshit, RJ rises above it. The kid’s got our full attention. – MW

Verdict: Hit

Best Songs: “Get Rich,” “Hoes Come Easy,” “No Excuses”

Alchemist – Israeli Salad

Taking a page out of the international Madlib and Oh No book, Alchemist drops a 20-track instrumental album with strictly Israeli samples, perfect with Humus and Manischewitz. Al did the same thing with Russian samples three years ago on Russian Roulette, but the rappers on that record seemed to get in the way of his stone cold grooves, and luckily he’s shed all vocalists this time around.

There are a couple recycled beats (“The Type” is from Spitta’s Covert Coupe and “Shalom Alechem” is from Sean Price’s “Bully Rap”) but besides that, these are brand new beats from one of the greatest producers of the last 15 years. You don’t need to wear a yarmulke to break your neck to these beats. Just wait until you get to the last song. – MW

Verdict: Hit

Best Songs: “Za’atar Smoke,” “Meduza,” “Departure”

Jeezy – Gangsta Party

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gynjHBEcsE

Jeezy wasn’t obligated to release his new mixtape Gangsta Party, but it’s been one of the better surprises of 2015. In his first project since Seen It All: The Autobiography, Jeezy recruited his fellow Atlantic Records cohort DJ Drama to host the 10-track mixtape. He also called on his inner circle of talented emcees and producers to join the party.

The Snow Man enlisted the newest acts from the South like Kevin Gates, Young Dolph, PeeWee Longway, Que, and Offset of Migos to turn up with him in songs like “Everything Back” and “Type Of Party.” Jeezy also called on fellow ATLien 2 Chainz to recall their past experiences cooking up dope on the Sonny Digital-produced “Pot Life.”

Jeezy rallied the best producers in the game like London On The Track, Zaytoven, and Cardo to curate the mixtape’s overall festive theme. Gangsta Party is the perfect soundtrack for any kickback or pregame before a wild night out. – TC

Verdict: Hit

Best Songs: “Everything Back,” “The Realest,” “Wit Me”

Other Notables Mixtapes From This Week:

21 Savage – The Slaughter Tape

Young Buck – 10 Bricks

Chris Travis – See You There

Little Simz – AGE 101: DROP 4

Hus Kingpin & SmooVth – Splash Brothers EP

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